This is a sprawling blog post if there ever was one. Read on to find out what I worked on for around 5 months to try interning in the world of Digital Humanities, including the steps required, the communication required, the challenges, the sample applications, and a list of internships possible too.
The world of Tech-focused Digital Humanities seem to be relegated between the freelance Developer roles, or the research positions in Digital Scholarship labs in universities. But wait.
There’s a whole world of specialized Humanities Tech, just waiting to be discovered by hopeful Digital Humanist students. Just look at Shawn Graham’s 3 part network analysis of Digital Humanities related jobs from 2012:
This post is for anyone in a specific niche field, and especially useful, I believe for Digital Humanities undergraduate and graduate students (in United States of America) coming into the field with a technical background and some humanities academic research experience. Extrapolate accordingly.
It was probably not required of me to do all of this, and apply to 20-30 internships and research positions a week, but here we are. I have accepted the Virtual Summer intern position at the National Gallery of Art to show for it. I am extremely thankful, and super excited for it. Initially, it was to be a Technologist Summer Intern position for the months of June and July 2020, but ah, well, COVID-19 struck.
I get to work on museum data analysis and visualization, AR / VR technology models, and updating legacy architecture; a dream role amidst hundreds of other Digital Humanists too. I made a guide that could have helped the 23 year-old me, just starting out, overwhelmed yet discouraged by the wealth of possibilities.
Where to start?
Imagine the world you want to be in.
Here’s how I envisioned it. I would finish Spring 2020 semester with a couple of papers in hand, ready to submit to some conferences and journals.
I would wake up early, eat a big breakfast I made, make some tea for my thermos, take the bus to the metro to get to DC, varying my route just so (In a week, I’ll know the fastest, most interesting route.) When I walk across all the museums, random statues, pretty houses, go in, greet all the people, lunch with fascinating people with multi-disciplinary backgrounds, I’ll learn about the research, which will have a wonderfully human approach, a qualitative methodology, but in bits and bytes. By the end of summer, I’ll have this highly specialized knowledge in a niche, and my hubris will probably burst forth finally.
Or something like that. Get into the details. Now think about the practicalities.
Of course, as an international student in the US (read: non-US citizen), with several layers of niches to consider, I had to contend with the immediate loss of consideration from many internships and job opportunities. I also had to ponder the implications of the work locations, my stay in the area, the rent and other costs, safety, and such. Regardless, I did try to apply anywhere and everywhere – including National Forest Ranges for Tech policy positions.
Steps to Get that Internship You’ve Always Wanted
Cover Letter Template
I am the POSITION at UNIVERSITY, pursuing an DEGREE in TITLE as a part of the SEMESTER batch. I am interested in a DURATION (SPRING / SUMMER / FALL / WINTER) internship.
I am particularly interested in:
1. GIS / Spatial / Visual / Textual mapping of Open Data
2. Assisting in Humanities research (Archival / Analysis / Data Visualization)
3. Internet Governance and Ethical Tech policy
WORK EXPERIENCE: My 1.5-year work experience includes Content Creation, Inbound Marketing and Web Page Development (HTML, CSS) for WordPress Backup and Security plugins (BlogVault, MalCare, and MigrateGuru). This required an adept understanding of technical terms like the OSI model, TCP/IP, DDOS attacks, firewall, SQL injections, latest malware hacks, and many other industry-standard security concepts.
ACADEMIC PROJECTS: My final year project was Phenobot – A Chatbot for Event Management using Bot Framework, LUIS, Node JS, JSON, and MongoDB. I am always willing to learn to bridge any knowledge gaps. I presented a seminar on Lambda Calculus and Functional Programming. Here I reviewed the mathematical applications of the Church-Turing Hypothesis.
ACADEMIC RESEARCH: My interests in the tech field include Digital Humanities, which is the intersection of digital tools used for humanities and humanitarian research. This includes using HCI, Database archival and retreival, and Knowledge Representation concepts. I have a blog on the same https://jajandthedigitalhumanities.com/
I have attended Winter School for Digital Humanities conducted by the Center for Digital Humanities, Pune in December 2018 and presented a paper (publishing-in-progress) on The Potential for Digital Humanities in India.
I enjoy writing long-form content on various fields, aspects and angles that Digital Humanities can be considered with, including Arts and Museum Scholarship. I would like to work in a research center or a think tank from a technical standpoint. Here you can view my initial journey of learning Data Visualization.
CURRENT ACADEMIC PURSUIT: I am currently studying the following courses that are also in line with my interests mentioned above:
1. Numerical Methods CSI 690
2. Scientific Databases CSI 695 (Research Project on Protein amino acids similarity in NCBI database)
3. Introduction to Computational Social Sciences CSS 600 (Research Paper on Agent-based modeling of neurobiological traits of Extraversion)
I will be taking up the following courses in the future semesters:
Scientific and Statistical Visualization CSI 703
Agent-Based Modeling and Simulation CSS 610
Cognitive Foundations of Computational Social Science CSS635
Origins of Social Complexity CSS620
Principles of Knowledge Mining CSI 777
Computational Learning and Discovery CSI 873 / MATH 689
MOTIVATION STATEMENT: I seek to take advantage of such opportunities in the field of Digital Humanities to preserve and promulgate our collective cultural heritage. In five years I see myself working in a Digital Humanities or Humanities Computing Research Center.
PFA my CV.
Thank you for your time.
NAME: Jajwalya Karajgikar
To professors, Mentors, Employers:
Subject: NAME Request for Reference
Dear Professor NAME,
I have been greatly enjoying and benefiting from the TITLE CLASS / POSITION TITLE that I am working with you this semester. I was hoping that you might know me well enough to write a general recommendation to help me in my pursuit of a summer 2020 internship.
As you can see from the attached cover letter, I am targeting positions in the Computational Humanities and Social Sciences research which will draw upon my Digital Scholarship skills.
I have also attached my resume which will bring you up to date about some of my accomplishments outside the classroom.
Please let me know if you are comfortable endorsing my candidacy for internships in museums, libraries, research institutes, think tanks, etc. I would be happy to answer any questions and provide further information which will help you to write your recommendation. If you do agree, please let me know the number of recommendations you are comfortable giving for me. Can we meet during your office hours to discuss this further?
Thanks so much for taking the time to review this request.
Name, Credentials, Email
Get-in-touch Messages (Shoot your shot)
Emails / Twitter / LinkedIn / Facebook / forums
I am NAME, POSITION, VISA STATUS. I am interested in Digital Humanities research from a technical and data perspective.
I enjoy writing long-form content on various aspects of Digital Humanities, including Arts and Museum Scholarship (CUSTOMIZE MESSAGE ACCORDING TO RECEIVER’S WORK AND RESEARCH AREA). I was wondering if it is possible for students from other universities to work on projects at RESEARCH CENTER / COMPANY / UNIVERSITY. If not, could you guide me to some other departments that work on DH projects?
PFA my CV and Cover letter.
NAME, POSITION, CONTACT DETAILS
Note that these were submitted in December 2019.
The Marshall Project
Tell us about some of your favorite data or visual journalism. What did you like about it?
Serendipity works in mysterious ways. Here I was, outlining my articles on Data Visualization and GIS (upcoming) in Digital Humanities. The next day, there I was in, in Google Malaysia Head Office, attending a Malaysia Open Data User Group event.
Hack/Hackers is a Media Technology group made up of Data Journalists. People from various (private and government) slices of life were at the event to work out the specifics of government data usage. MAMPU (Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit) was born of a need to modernize the government services. In an effort to become a data-driven government so to speak.
Governments are traditionally cautious of releasing data. The main take-away from the event, for me, at least, was that figuring out data is a detective murder mystery in action. So I got to work. I first came across a Geo-spatial project in the form of a Bicycler Data in New York from IQuantNY.com while studying for my Data Visualization in Digital Humanities blog post. IQuantNY mapped out the number of cycling incidents in NYC, using GIS with Data Science and Urban Planning… and Improv Comedy. The idea was to Connect with People’s Experiences, Focus on One Idea, Explore what you know best, and Make a real-world Impact. That got me thinking – Does Bengaluru City, my hometown, have this kind of open data concept? Bangalore after all, is the Silicon Valley of India. It also has some of the biggest focus group of Digital Humanities centers and research projects going on. Does Kuala Lumpur, the place I was staying at, at the time? Turns out they do. The IQuantNY Data guy, Ben Wellington, investigated the parking tickets across a section of New York region only to find that legally parked vehicles were also being ticketed – for up to 23 million dollars. He phoned it in, and voilà! The officials are on the case. From frozen yogurt to fire hydrants, data journalism is hidden in everyday objects. The best projects inspire people to replicate results by just trying and that is what this project did for me.
What types of stories are you most interested in telling?
In my computational Social Sciences classes, we are constantly in contact with agent-based models of slums, drugs across borders, economic trends, human behavior observations, political sciences, Schelling’s model, social studies, etc which have a real-world impact. The types of stories I have internalized would be the type I would want to see represented by me. I would like to bring together Digital Humanities projects that Connect with People’s Experiences, Focus on One Idea, Explore what I know, and Make a real-world Impact.
In what areas do you want to grow?
I seek to take advantage of such opportunities in the field of Digital Humanities to preserve and promulgate our collective cultural heritage. In five years I see myself working in a Digital Humanities or Humanities Computing Research Center.
I do not have an academic background in journalism, and with this opportunity with The Marshall project, would like to have practical understanding of the Fourth Estate experience apart from fictional settings in TV shows like Newsroom.
My first instinct was to be overwhelmed by a flood of memories on all the data visualizations I came across over the months I penned down my Data Visualization blog post.
Above all else, I would like to know that I am not alone. That I am not the only one in my surroundings interested in DH from a technical perspective. In the digital realm, I have encountered the experiences of people in the humanities who turned into ad-hoc professors, or Digital Scholarship lab assistants. However, I am yet to meet someone from the tech realm trying to break into DH, like I am. Everyone I talk to is surprised at my enthusiasm in DH. In five years I see myself working in a Digital Humanities or Humanities Computing Research Center. I would be very grateful to connect with like-minded people in the exact space that I would like to see myself in, as my career progresses. I seek to take advantage of such opportunities in the field of Digital Humanities to preserve and promulgate our collective cultural heritage.
We’re looking for people with diverse and multidisciplinary expertise. You don’t have to be an expert in all of the areas below but we want to know about your strengths and weaknesses so we can get the right mix of fellows. We want people who are quantitative, analytical, and care about the world. We typically get fellows from Computer Science, Statistics, Math/Applied Math, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, Economics, Public Health, and Public Policy programs, but we’re open to other fields as well. Tell us more about your programming experience. What projects have you worked on, what was your role, and what tools and languages did you use? You don’t need to be an expert coder to be part of DSSG, but you need some coding experience. We want to know more about your skills so we can create the right teams for each project.
- As a Digital Scholarship Center Graduate Research Assistant I have documented and worked on content for workshops on the following topics: Social Media Data Mining with Python Web Scraping, Text Analysis with Voyant, Data Visualization with Tableau, Social Network Analysis with R and Python
- Built MATLAB and Python scripts on Arithmetic, Calculus, and Statistics topics for Numerical Methods CSI 690 course.
- Presented Research Project on Pairwise Protein amino acid similarity alignment in NCBI database with BioPython using Needleman-Wunsch Machine Learning algorithms for Scientific Databases CSI 695 course.
- Constructed and presented a Research Paper on Agent-based modeling of neurobiological traits of Extraversion using wealth distribution Sugarscape model using NetLogo for Introduction to Computational Social Sciences CSS 600 course.
- FreeCodeCamp and Kaggle projects bridged the gap between my education and real-world expectations. Together this 1000+ hour curriculum covered frontend, backend, and data visualization projects. Here I challenged myself to become a better programmer. I built landing pages, weather machines, algorithm scripts, big data visualizations and other such problem-solving applications with jQuery, React.js, Bootstrap, D3.js, etc.
- Built “Phenobot”: Chatbot for Event Management built using Bot Framework, Node.js, JSON, MongoDB, and LUIS as the Computer Science Engineering Undergraduate project . Phenobot is a purpose-specific chatbot created to respond to particular commands and questions. It acted as a communication interface between event managers and service providers. I contributed by scripting and training Phenobot with user utterances on LUIS. The study of the Question-Answer system Watson helped in replicating a business setting for Phenobot.
Tell us more about projects you have done with data analysis, and the types of analysis you did
As the Digital Scholarship Graduate Research Assistant, I perform the following tasks:
- Assisting student projects with software like NVivo, Gephi, Tableau, ArcGIS, QGIS, Voyant, Atlas.ti, Omeka S, Timeline.js, Storymap.js, Excel, Google Sheets, SPSS, Stata, etc for qualitative and quantitative research.
- Conducting workshops on related Digital Humanities topics like Social Media data mining, Data Visualization and Social Network Analysis.
- Finding appropriate sources of data for clients; scholars, researchers, undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate students, and faculty for descriptive and predictive data analysis.
- Assisting in historical and political sciences archival projects and helping with Omeka S and Classic backend support for Special Collections and Archival Research department.
- Taking up related Massive Online Open Courses like Harvard DH101 where I picked up Voyant Text Mining and Analysis skills using Ubuntu command prompt and UCLA’s DH courses.
Tell us more about your experience with modeling and machine learning algorithms and methods.
Which algorithms and methods have you used? Which ones are you comfortable with? Tell us about a project you’ve done using machine learning. What was the goal of the project? What did you do? How were the results used? Did anyone else have to use your work?
- Currently working on a Agent-based modeling and Simulation CSS 610 class which will be visualized for Scientific Statistical Visualization CSI 703.
- Goal: To model the various agents in the Silk Route and then visualize patterns in trade routes.
- Programming language: Python, R, D3.js
- Bioinformatics project for Scientific Databases CSI 695 course.
- Goal: Pairwise Protein amino acid similarity alignment from NCBI database
- Method: Needleman-Wunsch Machine Learning algorithm
- Programming language: BioPython
- Results: The two aligned patterns of protein sequences were represented with ‘|’ symbol between them while the non-matching patterns were described with gaps ‘-’ in the alignment.
- Extraverted agents modeling for Introduction to Computational Social Sciences CSS 600 course.
- Goal: First ever investigation of Depue and Collins Theory (1999) for extraversion specifically in an agent-based modeling simulation to observe the simulation of agents with different levels of extraversion engaging in a different amount of rewarding experiences.
- Method: Modeled and combined Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, Sugarscape Wealth-distribution model, and Big Five Personality theory for multi-agent behavior with research partner, a neuroscience PhD student with domain knowledge, in a model designing and programming role.
- Results: The ANOVA plotting of 800 runs of the model supported criticisms of Depue and Collins theory of Extraversion and gave credence to the importance of Yarkoni’s (2015) observations that extraversion is not the only affecting factor for pursuit of rewarding behavior.
- Programming language: NetLogo
Tell us more about your experience with quantitative social science methods. What methods have you used? What was the goal of the work you were doing? How were the results used?
As a Digital Scholarship Graduate Research Assistant, I have assisted in various interdisciplinary and multi-departmental projects applying quantitative social science research methods including SPSS, SAS, MS Excel, Google Sheets along with implementation in ESRI’s ArcGIS. I am familiar with them at an operational basis and have assisted in workshops for the same.
This Spring 2020 semester I will be working on an independant Social Network Analysis project with R and Gephi with the Center. I will also be working on a historical and literary database for Agent-based modeling and Simulation CSS 610 class which will be visualized for Scientific Statistical Visualization CSI 703.
Previously, in Digital Humanities Winter School held by the Center for Digital Humanities, Pune, I developed short projects on George Mason University’s Omeka, Knightlab’s Timeline.js, and Storymap.js, on non-Brahmanical tourist spots around Pune.
Tell us more about your experience using data. What type of data are you most experienced and comfortable with?
Text files? databases? natural language text data? graphs/networks? images? multimedia?
I am familiar with tables (JSON, XML), text files (CSV, TXT), databases (Omeka, MySQL, MongoDB), and graphs (GEXF, GDF, GML, GraphML, GraphViz DOT). I worked with scientific data, varied and large-scale as it may be for my graduate degree projects. I hope to become more familiar with natural language text data this semester, in preparation for a course on Natural Language Processing (Applied Information Technology 726) for Fall 2020 course.
Tell us about data-related projects you’ve worked on recently.
What was the goal of the project? What methods and tools did you use? What did you do? Were these projects that you worked on independently, or as part of a team? What was your role if it was done as part of a team? What was the outcome and impact? If any materials about the projects are available online, please include links here (papers, web pages, Github repos, blog posts, etc.).
- Downloaded data on the books I read over the years from Goodreads and “cleaned” it up a little on MS Excel alternative Google Sheets. My initial objective was only to find out the highest number of books and pages I read over the last 10 years on Tableau. Then I wanted to check if the year for the two could be the same.
- Downloaded Twitter data on Computational Social Sciences hashtags using Tweepy.
- I created a US GDP Bar graph US Education Choropleth Map graph on D3.js from JSON datasets found on Github.
- Presented Research Project on Pairwise Protein amino acid similarity alignment in NCBI database with BioPython using Needleman-Wunsch Machine Learning algorithms for Scientific Databases CSI 695 course.
What is it about ‘social good’ work that you find compelling?
Tell us about your past experiences working in (or with) the public sector (this can mean work or projects with governments and nonprofits, volunteer work, or for-profit work with a social mission). What accomplishment are you most proud of in this area? In two sentences, tell us what you found a) the most rewarding and b) the most frustrating about these experiences.
George Mason University, the largest and most diverse public university in Virginia, has one of the most dynamic and impactful Digital Scholarship Center Labs in the United States for a Digital Humanities Specialist Graduate Research Assistant like me. Not only was I accessing multiple, varied, and cutting edge tools to explore hard, unanswered questions, I was getting a chance to witness and address societal challenges via a front seat in innovative interdepartmental and multidisciplinary research. Even with the assistance I was offering, I often felt I was learning much more with each project or dissertation coming in for a consultation. My personal vested interest in solving humanitarian and environmental challenges are enhanced by my considerably unique international global south perspective into the humanities from a technical standpoint and cultural understanding. I am passionate about knowledge dissemination and particularly interested in working in Data Analysis and Visualization in Humanities and Social Sciences research in the long run. I was assisting a professor on a deep learning project on the socio-economic challenges of adopting blockchain technology in the global south which brought together all my various interests.
For the longest time I was on a lonesome road to walk as a Digital Humanities and Social Sciences developer in India. The lack of access and interest from authorities to store and promulgate our collective heritage frustrated me. I hope with the ever increasing focus on Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning concepts, the applications will spillover to such often overlooked or ignored fields.
DSSG is a team-centric environment. Tell us the three best qualities that you bring to a team (your experiences can be from school or from a job).
Additionally, tell us one element of teamwork that you find frustrating, and walk us through the process of how you like to work through disagreements. How do you organize your work when working with a team? What collaboration tools did you use to work with a team? (Calendars, Email, Slack, GitHub, Trello, etc)
At the Digital Scholarship Center in George Mason University Libraries, we keep each other up-to-date with Slack channel, Google Calendar, and Email. In BlogVault, as a remote team member, I communicated with the developer team, sales team, as well as the rest of the Content Creation Marketing team via daily Google Hangouts video calls, created task lists with Trello, and Slack channels. In my undergraduate project, the team communicated via Slack and Github. In my experience as a remote team member, I often felt the need to work harder to bridge any miscommunication gap. The Content Marketing team leader often had ideas that required understanding, assimilating, and questioning to produce the output required. This was an important exercise in my learning curve to reduce the likelihood of disagreements, mismanagement, and optimizing time. Gradually, I realized as a team player, I felt pride in sharing successes with everyone. I am a green hat person, with the ability to think up creative possibilities, alternatives, and innovative solutions. At the Center, I came up with different approaches like infographics or information visualizations to give out information apart from infoguides, libguides, and worksheets.
Tell us about your future plans (post-DSSG and post-summer as well as longer term) and what you want to get out of this summer at DSSG
I believe that DSSG values a much-needed distinct approach to problem solving in the current age of technology usage. Such an educational embodiment of practical solutions inspires me to make a mark in the society I am a part of. I hope to contribute to it via my skill sets, considerably unique perspective, and intellectual enthusiasm for the same vision. Being a part of the behind-the-scenes action for helping real people is enormously appealing to me, and I believe that the fellowship can help me accomplish such possibilities.
From this experience, I expect to gain a significant understanding of the practical Digital Humanities and Computational Social Sciences research and what it takes to pursue a career in this field. I would like to understand the context, nuances, and challenges that come with a real world interdisciplinary work setting. In five years I see myself working in a Digital Humanities Research Center. I would be very grateful to connect with like-minded people in the exact space that I would like to see myself in, as my career progresses. I seek to take advantage of such opportunities in the field of Digital Humanities to preserve and promulgate our collective cultural heritage.
Apply to Organizations
Follow or even volunteer as Editor-in-Large for Digital Humanities Now, which has around 400 or so blogs feed fed and curated for job announcements, interesting DH articles, and research with PressForward, a research project at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. I connected with various DH-ers via this endeavor, which led me to applying to the NGA internship in the first place.
Despite my classes going online, the NGA internship going virtual, the world seeming so bleak, I look forward to this summer and studies beyond. I am so so so very thankful to my mentors, co-workers, instructors, everyone who kindly replied to my frenzied requests for references, help, questions on their roles in Digital Humanities research.
Thank you friends, roommates, classmates, parents, relatives, who made this wonderful reality possible. Thank you 23-year-old Jajwalya, who worked so hard, so determined to belong, so mindfully passionate to always, always, always, do more.